There are tons of supplements and herbs marketed for acne out there that can actually make it a lot worse. Below are some of the typical ones clients will come to me taking who are suffering from chronic acne and other skin conditions. I explain why I don't recommend these but please remember, everyone reacts differently. These are just general patterns I have noticed in my practice.
Fish Oil (exception: cod liver oil)- These are isolated polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA's). This type of fat is highly susceptible to oxidation when consumed as the human body consists of heat, light and oxygen. This creates inflammation in the body which triggers acne. In addition, people with acne usually have a sluggish liver so they are not going to be able to efficiently break down these PUFA's which leads to excess accumulation in the tissue which can lead to acne and disease. Instead, I recommend incorporating more stable saturated fats in your diet which will naturally balance out your omega 3, 6 and 9 ratio.
B Vitamins- These include B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, Folate, Biotin. These can be stimulating to the adrenal glands which can trigger more DHEA-S production. This is an androgen that increases with stress and causes acne for many. I see this happening often in my clients with PCOS especially adrenal PCOS. A Dutch test can confirm if high androgens is triggering your acne.
Vitamin C- This can be too stimulating to the adrenal glands as well which can cause an overproduction of DHEA-S leading to breakouts. This is the same as B Vitamins.
Zinc- This can block the aromatase enzyme which is needed to convert testosterone to estrogen. Testosterone levels may increase if this aromatase enzyme is blocked which can lead to acne.
Please keep in mind I am talking about synthetic supplements here (NOT FOOD). Zinc, B Vitamins and Vitamin C from food sources is very nourishing for your skin and can help improve acne especially if it's caused by hormones or nutrient deficiencies. Basically everyone with acne has a zinc deficiency whether its absorption issues or not eating enough. Please make sure to include zinc rich foods like shellfish and red meat in your diet. I love bee pollen and beef heart for sufficient B vitamin intake and tropical/citrus fruits for Vitamin C.
Ginseng, Rhodiola, Ashwaganda, Maca and Green Tea are all very stimulating to the adrenal glands which can increase the androgen DHEA-S causing acne for many. This is the same reason why I am cautious when using B vitamins and Vitamin C supplements with acne clients.
Vitex/Chaste Tree- I have seen this increase Luteinizing Hormone (LH) levels in many in relation to Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). However, many women with hormone imbalances (especially if you have PCOS) already show high LH on blood work and overstimulating it can actually increase acne. This is not my favourite herb to use!
Again, this is not necessarily the case for everyone but I have noticed aggravated acne in not only myself but many of my clients who take these supplements. I hope this helps you in your clear skin journey!